Zooming into the 2020 eCommerce holiday season

Ho Ho Ho! Anyone else waking up in the middle of the night right now? Any visions of Santa and his elves wearing their Christmas themed masks working diligently but socially distanced? Is it just me!? Too soon, you say! 

I know for many, we are just putting our summer flip flops and beach chairs away. But for those in eCommerce, we know it’s never too soon to ready our teams, marketing campaigns, and product inventory. For many merchants, the 2020 holiday season cannot come soon enough. However, this year will require more thoughtful prework than maybe all other years combined. 2020 is a unique and exhausting year that has forced businesses to navigate the radically changing landscape of securing supplies and delivering goods to a changing consumer audience. With this in mind, there is so much more to mull this holiday season ahead…I say rolling out the eggnog drink cart a bit early is very much in order! 

2020 has already been one to remember for those in commerce. There have been high highs and very low lows. Much has been experienced by merchants, only to quickly put in game changing business practices. There have been winners and losers, and many in between. Many businesses, especially in the retail sector, cratered. In the first half of 2020, more than 3,600 companies filed for bankruptcy, according to Epiq. Other businesses, especially those with a strong omnichannel eCommerce strategy, have downright thrived. For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) reported an increase in comparable consolidated same-store sales of 20.7% (twice higher than estimated) even in light of having 15% of its stores closed during the quarter.

Zooming out (remember when Zoom was only a verb!), it has been only six months since the global pandemic set in but it feels more like years ago. It is almost nostalgic to think back at business plans balancing the in person with the online, as we all tailor and cater to our customers and their seemingly endless shifts in shopping patterns. Here’s a good read from Forbes that really anticipated how COVID-19 would forever change the eCommerce landscape. Flash forward just a few months and the buyer-seller exchange will never be the same. Digital360 did a good job of summarizing that shift in market conditions and those corresponding pivots business owners quickly encountered and navitated. 

For those with children. For those who teach. For those who work in crafts supporting all things education — September truly begins the holiday season in the form of back-to-school readiness. Those in commerce trades inherently know these first few weeks of fall truly kick off the all-important season of shopping, and they have been getting ready for the buildup all summer long. But, and I say it again, this year will be a slog of continual learning and change. It has become clear any in-person schooling scenarios are on thin ice, as this Scrooge of a virus looms large. This will continue to drive dramatic change. According to Deloitte’s 2020 back-to-school survey, parents expect to spend 37% of their budget online (+8 pp vs 2019), as health concerns are top of mind. At the same time prevailing categories shift from office supplies to technology and virtual learning tools – all dictated by a new format of schooling and uncertainty on this studying season format.

Zooming back in as a business owner, getting ready to support the upcoming season is something to get on now if you have not already. This relates both to an offline preparation (including new disinfection requirements) and to your online sales capabilities (return policy, delivery experience, hosting capabilities and overall consumer experience).  Alas, ‘tis the season starts September 1st. There is a lot to consider and get ready. Connecting, shopping and learning online are now the norm. The word “new” is really no longer necessary.

Okay, deep breath. We’ve got this. But first, an eggnog toast. As we head into the final and the most important stretch of an exhausting year of commerce, may I be the first to wish everyone the world over a safe, healthy and prosperous return-to-school and upcoming holiday season ahead. Virtual cheers!

Please share your holiday plans with us!